Database administration refers to the whole set of activities performed by a database administrator to ensure that a database is always available as needed. Other closely related tasks and roles are database security, database monitoring and troubleshooting, and planning for future growth.
Database administration is an important function in any organization that is dependent on one or more databases.
The database administrator (DBA) is usually a dedicated role in the IT department for large organizations. However, many smaller companies that cannot afford a full-time DBA usually outsource or contract the role to a specialized vendor, or merge the role with another in the ICT department so that both are performed by one person.
The primary role of database administration is to ensure maximum up time for the database so that it is always available when needed. This will typically involve proactive periodic monitoring and troubleshooting. This in turn entails some technical skills on the part of the DBA. In addition to in-depth knowledge of the database in question, the DBA will also need knowledge and perhaps training in the platform (database engine and operating system) on which the database runs.
A DBA is typically also responsible for other secondary, but still critically important, tasks and roles. Some of these include:
- Database Security: Ensuring that only authorized users have access to the database and fortifying it against any external, unauthorized access.
- Database Tuning: Tweaking any of several parameters to optimize performance, such as server memory allocation, file fragmentation and disk usage.
- Backup and Recovery: It is a DBA’s role to ensure that the database has adequate backup and recovery procedures in place to recover from any accidental or deliberate loss of data.
- Producing Reports from Queries: DBAs are frequently called upon to generate reports by writing queries, which are then run against the database.
It is clear from all the above that the database administration function requires technical training and years of experience. Some companies that offer commercial database products, such as Oracle DB and Microsoft’s SQL Server, also offer certifications for their specific products. These industry certifications, such as Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) and Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA), go a long way toward assuring organizations that a DBA is indeed thoroughly trained on the product in question. Because most relational database products today use the SQL language, knowledge of SQL commands and syntax is also a valuable asset for today’s DBAs.